Luda C. Gelas |

Luda C. Gelas

Luda Gelas passed away peacefully on Friday, July 30 at her home in Basalt. Born a French citizen in Geneva, Switzerland on March 19, 1929 she was the fifth child of Dr. Jean Gelas and his wife Germaine.

She grew up in Thonon-les-Bains (France) surrounded by loving parents and eight brothers and sisters. Like many children growing up at this time, she was profoundly marked by the suffering brought on by World War II. In admiration of her mother and father, who were respectively a nurse and surgeon, she decided early on to pursue a medical career. Although already a rebellious young woman (she refused to wear her compulsory school uniform), she managed to graduate magna cum laude in the field of anaesthesiology at nursing school in Paris. She then decided to complete her degree in the U.S.

She went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. in the early ’50s where she spent 12 years studying advanced anaesthesiology. She took part in one of the first heart-bypass surgeries with Dr. John Kirklin and she was involved in new cancer-surgery procedures with Dr. Claude Dixon, who became her mentor in the U.S.

After having worked in Boston and Texas, she took a position at Aspen Valley Hospital in the early sixties when it was still a small country facility dealing mostly with ski accidents and routine illness. Luda discovered that she could save the lives of any critical patients by accompanying them on their transfer to larger hospitals in Denver or Grand Junction. She accompanied patients on many harrowing flights in small planes through the mountains, giving expert emergency care with a method she devised.

Luda retired from Aspen Valley Hospital in the early ’90s after more than 40 years dedicated to her patients. Her strong temperament and continuous commitment commanded respect from all with whom she worked. She was passionate about her job and enjoyed it thoroughly to the end.

When not working, Luda was an inveterate card player who did not like to lose! She enjoyed the company of her family and many friends, including the Benedict and Dixon families. She travelled regularly to France, Mexico and the Caribbean, where she sailed with her French family.

Luda loved welcoming young people, including her many nephews, nieces and family friends, offering guidance, advice and good food and comfortable beds (when these were not occupied by her adored dogs !)

In the early eighties, Luda applied for American nationality and became a proud citizen of the country that welcomed her 30 years before. Although she maintained close links with France and her family there, it was important for Luda to be able to vote and to take part in American life as a full-fledged citizen.

Determination, kindness, fun and independence are four adjectives which aptly describe Luda’s estimable personality.

Her health deteriorated severely over the last three years but Luda still managed to retain control of her life by having carefully planned for her future.

Her family would like to particularly thank Kaye, Carrie and Kelly Kuersten, three sisters who kindly provided attentive care to Luda over these years. They would also like to show their appreciation to Dr. Eric and Roxanne Willsky and Frosty and Carly Merriott, who were precious friends that showed unwavering support to Luda.

Luda Gelas is survived by her sisters Françoise Daulne, Madeleine Bottu, Dominique Bernhardt and Marie-Therese Decouvelaere and her brothers Jean-Pierre and Daniel Gelas, and their families.

A memorial Mass for Luda will be held on Aug. 27, 2010 at 2 p.m. at Saint Vincent de Paul Church, 250 Midland Ave., Basalt. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The American Red Cross at:

Any inquiries may be addressed to Luda’s niece Laurence’s email at or to her nephew Eric’s email at

Luda will forever remain in our hearts and prayers. We will miss her very much.

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